When viewing a property in London, here a few things you may want to check out. Other than that you like the place, that it’s the right size and the right location, and sports a parking space/garden/warehouse/jacuzzi or whatever else your specific requirements are.
- Windows and doors – in good shape, and double-glazed? It can get rather cold in winter (at least compared to San Francisco standards), but many flats/houses still have the old single pane windows and are anything but tight. Yes, as was the case for our rental. We lived with an overly steady supply of fresh air, throughout a shockingly cold winter.
- Are there locks on the windows, a BS3621 lock on the main door, and three-point locks on all patio doors? This will help you with getting affordable insurance – many insurers won’t even offer you a policy without all these widgets in place. As a renter, contents insurance is generally required by contract, while the owner pays building insurance. [If your chosen property doesn’t have this abundance of locks, go to one of the main insurers like Aviva or Halifax, they are more likely to be OK with that. Or call an insurance broker, they’ll find something suitable for a fairly small fee.]
- Heating – how old is the central heating system? Newer efficient system = lower bills, and likely more comfort.
- Noise – under flight path, near railway, on busy road? Above / near pubs? Beware!
- Water pressure – check taps (faucets) and showers. Run a shower on full and flush a toilet at the same time. What happens to the pressure? Your house may have mains pressure at all faucets, or it may be fed by a gravity tank in the attic. Either way, check the pressure.
- How small are the fridge, freezer, washing machine, dryer, dish washer (if present at all)? UK size ≠ US size. BTW, I have come across a number of combination washer-dryers here – didn’t work for me, the drying cycle took 2+ hours, and clothes still came out quite damp.
- If there is a garden, who maintains it (likely you), and are the necessary tools available (unless you feel like buying a lawn mower…)
- What furniture (if any) is included?
- Fire place and chimney sweeping – latter is likely your responsibility, but ask. You can also choose to not use the fire place…
- Check they have an up-to-date gas safety certificate.
- Will your furniture fit? Staircases are often narrow, especially in terraced houses where the attic space has been converted into a bedroom(aka a “loft conversion”) – will your US King size mattress make it around the bends? What about that piano – can you get it in? Ours had to travel lying on its side part of the way….and then it only JUST made it.
If you are happy with all of the above, as well as the size, look, and price of the property, you can head off to the next adventure – signing the lease.